Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A few colorful horror movie picks for Halloween

This week the Internet is knee-deep in Halloween horror movie lists, and TCM is running its annual marathon of classic horror, so the world is very much where I like it to be right now. I feel compelled to join in the list-making, but I don't have a definitive favorites list, really. If I was asked, I'd say my favorite horror film visually is "Shiver of the Vampires" by Jean Rollin and my favorite "serious" horror film is "The Shining," but any attempts to make a top ten list just fragments into endless sub-lists by genre.

What do I like? In a sentence: visually compelling 1960s and 1970s gothic horror with lots of color and psychedelic flourishes, and a great soundtrack. To be clear: things like plot and acting are not important to me. I don't need things to make sense. I just like the progression of haunting imagery from certain times and places, and the atmosphere these films create. Decrepit mansions, haunted castles, ruins, lush decadent interiors, gorgeous gowns, statuary and portraits, forbidden rituals. I do not think these films are "funny" or "cheesy." I love them deeply as moving works of psychedelic gothic art and I love the dream logic present in many of them.

Here is a random handful of a few colorful favorites of mine. I'm not going to try to write a plot synopsis or a review...not this moment, anyway. For me, just seeing a still image from one of these was enough to make me want to see it, so that is mostly what I'd like to share right now.

Curse of the Crimson Altar (The Crimson Cult) - 1968 

 This image right here is pretty much all I need to know, to want to see this. Barbara Steele is blue, and has a rams-head headdress? Why yes, I'd be interested in that.

And things just keep getting better. Christopher Lee is a reason to see any film, but the promise of occult rituals and masks in a film from the 1960s is irresistible. Not pictured, incidentally, Boris Karloff also appears in the film...his last film appearance, if I'm not mistaken.

Once you have people in animal masks, I am pretty much there. This film is supposedly based on HP Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House," as it involves dreams of a witch cult, but the connection is pretty tenuous. Tigon released it, so if you enjoy British horror, this might be one you haven't seen before. It is on Youtube as "The Crimson Cult," which was how I initially saw it on late night cable, some years ago.

Vengeance of the Zombies / La rebelión de las muertas - 1973

One of the many fantastic Paul Naschy/León Klimovsky films. I'll just go ahead and append the imdb summary, as it gets the job done: "An Indian mystic uses magical chants to raise women from the dead, then sends them out to perform revenge killings for him." The main thing that I retain from my viewing of the film are Paul Naschy's bizarre roles here. First we have, well, the devil. And he plays the Indian mystic, of course, because...for whatever reason, movies did things like that in the early 1970s. It's worth suspending your disbelief, in this instance.

You also get these lovely ladies.

The film also had a jazzy score that seemed out of place, but added to the charm, if I recall. While "The Werewolf Vs. the Vampire Women" (aka Werewolf Shadow) is probably my favorite Paul Naschy film, this one made quite an impact on me as well and I need to go back and view it again.

Fascination - 1979

 My favorite director, Jean Rollin. It might be his best, although it's not my tippy-top favorite of his films (Shiver of the Vampires gets that distinction) or the most visually out of control (La Vampire Nue might be that one), this image, among many others, has made a lasting impression. It has one of the most fantastic movie posters of all time as well.

Set just after the turn of the last century, a group of women lure men into a fog-shrouded chateau and drink their blood, amidst lush, decadent and surreal surroundings. Trying to write one or two sentences about the complete aesthetic experience that is a Jean Rollin film, may be beyond my abilities, but Halloween would not be complete without a re-viewing of one of his films.

Murderous, bloodthirsty Victorian women in white, in a foggy chateau, or waltzing on a stone bridge to the tune of an old phonograph...Rollin is simply the master of atmosphere.

Messiah of Evil -1973

Another dreamlike film, this one American -- and for some reason it took me forever to get a DVD copy that didn't have a flaw that caused the film to stop a little over halfway through. Remembered perhaps most for its scene of zombies in an eerily empty supermarket, gnawing on meat, or filling in all of the rows in a movie theatre around a single living patron, one of my personal favorite things about the film is actually the weird setting in an artist's house full of pop art murals on the walls.

I called them zombies but they're not zombies the way we normally think of them. They are denizens of this strange town, under the malevolent influence of the Blood Moon.

Above, one of the interesting murals, this one on the bathroom wall. Whenever a horror movie has an artist as a part of the plot, it is extra interesting, because you have a chance to see some really interesting artwork. See also: Juan López Moctezuma's "Mary Mary Bloody Mary" which contains artwork by the surreal artist Rosa Rosenberg. Here is an example of her work....very grateful to that film for making me aware of her!

The Blood Rose - 1970

Let's make this a five-movie list and come back another day for some more. I haven't seen a lot of people talk about this film, but "La Rose écorchée" by Claude Mulot is as stunning and decadent as they come. Just look at this picture.

This scene is at a costume ball, but once you paint someone gold, you have my interest. The film is one of the genre wherein a mad doctor's wife is disfigured, and others have to die to restore her beauty. The madman in this case is a botanist/artist which is even better for my purposes, because that means we get: lots of plants and flowers, and a very arty environment.

 Oh yes, and you get these two guys...

And candelabras...

Oh so many nightgowns and candelabras.

This concludes my small attempt to capture a few images that inspire me from 1960s and 1970s horror films, though I would like to write a more proper summary and discussion of them other than "Oh my god there are so many candelabras in this movie, you HAVE to see it!"

But for a sampling of a few that probably aren't going to make the rounds on cable this year...look for these on Youtube, and some may still be available on DVD in some form or another.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Candelabras, jack o' lanterns and by the way I like horror movies

I'm watching giant dragonflies, and tiny lizards, all over the patio garden. The dragonflies are so large they seem almost prehistoric. The lizards, well, aren't quite as big as they used to be in the same era. I think the lemon tree is almost ready to start ripening, but I really have no idea when that is supposed to happen...I'm just thrilled at the idea that they are growing outside. So that is how I try to wrap my head around autumn, after a week in which it was in the 90s for a couple of days, and I lost my spooky momentum. This is the time of year that I should be watching candelabra movies (see my recent posts on Tumblr for a slew of those)... Typically, Jean Rollin & co., Mario Bava, the usual 1960s and 70s European horror suspects. it's finally feeling like candelabra weather.

 What I REALLY want to do right now is watch Dark Shadows, but all of my DVDs are in NJ and I can't remember where I left off. I think in the early 500s (volume 8 or 9 of the old DVD boxes). Adam was lurching around...I think Cassandra was in some serious trouble. At any rate, speaking of candelabras....this isn't from the series, it's from one of the movies, Night of Dark Shadows (1971) but WE SHALL NOT SPEAK of any later incarnations of the series, as I only live in the 1960s and 1970s, and very occasionally the early 80s.

Speaking of which, my tastes have gone a little bit more into the modern era recently. I've been feeling in the mood to watch early 80s slasher films. Basically, anything in which lots of teenagers don't fare very well. Nothing against teenagers, per se, it's just good fodder for a movie. The look and feel of 1980s things has acquired more of a vintage sheen now that the world in many ways no longer resembles it. When you watch something wherein everyone talks on land-bound phones; the hair and clothing are distinctly of another era; the music is synthesizer-based in a very specific way that you don't hear any more; and the clichés are being cheerfully driven into the ground....there is a certain charm in that. Even moreso in the Shot On Video VHS tape films like those I've been lucky enough to see at the Alamo Drafthouse recently ("The Abomination," et. al.). But more on that later perhaps.

I'm actually not here to talk about candelabras or horror films at all, I'm here to talk about jack o' lanterns. I have quite a few of them in the ol' Etsy shop and I try to use this blog to show off all that art stuff, so let's get on with it. Here is my most recent little Halloween painting.

It was done to be a part of a month-long Halloween jack o' lantern promo over here...

For an ever-growing assortment of jack o' lantern themed Halloween art and crafts for sale this month, check the link above...and visit the Halloween shop on the site as well. I have five originals and 15 prints for sale on that site, with postage included in all prices in the US...but there is lots of stuff by other artists as well!

There's lots of stuff newly available in the Halloween Artist Bazaar shop with the postage included in price, including 5 x 7 photo prints of one of my most popular paintings, "Dark Lanterns"... also available in my Etsy shop along with the original from which the prints were taken. The first time I did a version of this painting was around 2001, and I have had several custom commissions for it as well. I always take commissions for repaints in any size, or variations on previous paintings I've done...or completely new works that are within the scope of my themes.

"Guardian of Pumpkin Woods" available as a 5 x 7 photo print at the link above, and also at Etsy.

"Black Lantern Spell" available above postage paid, or at Etsy.

One more for now, "Alice in the Dark Woods" prints can be found above postage paid, and also at Etsy with variable shipping options as an original or a print.

Meanwhile, though it's only barely feeling like the end of summer now, we did get a bit of atmosphere in recently at the giant bug display at the Houston Zoo...needless to say my favorite critter was the tarantula. I miss having these little guys around!

More soon on other things of a creepy nature.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Few Gothic Visions for Halloween

I have plenty of orange pumpkins and black cats available year-round for the Halloween aesthetic, but I am really into surreal grey images at the moment. Although not a conscious influence, I think that the Edward Gorey intro to "Mystery" in the 70s was one of those formative images in my life, and something that I connected with immediately. The black and white drawings of mystery clichés -- the garden walls, the statues and urns, the strange dark figures lurking in the background -- I can't even remember specifically what was in it, without rewatching it, but that kind of imagery formed a kind of blueprint in the back of my mind for All That Was Good.

The thought of a half-seen, shrouded figure; a ghost flitting through a topiary garden or past a cemetery gate; a broken fountain in an abandoned courtyard; a cracked urn overgrown with ivy -- they thrill and delight me like nothing else in the world. Even in the films I endlessly watch from the 60s and 70s - Italian gothics and giallos, Hammer horror, surreal French vampire films - carry this aesthetic. It's where I live, what can I say? Here are a couple of small paintings that pay tribute to those glimpses of haunted spaces.

 "The Hidden Window"

"Lost in the Garden"

While I'm at it, here are a few more typically Halloween images, but with a muted grey monochrome look to them -- highlighted by a single bright color of a ghoulish or ghastly image. I may add to these before long, but so far there are three.

"Besieged by Tentacles"



Through Oct. 15, you can get 15% off anything in my Etsy shop with the coupon code AUTUMN14 to celebrate the season.  Use it as much as you like, pass it along...get yourself or a friend a little something for Halloween!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Trick or Treat Giveaway 2014

It's that time of year! There are all kinds of goodies up for grabs in this bucket o' Halloween this year, with items donated by members of the Halloween Artist Bazaar team. Please click the picture above to read all about it and see photos of all of the items, along with contest rules. It's REALLY EASY.

Basically, before Oct. 20, you want to visit one of the contributing HAB artist shops and leave them the message “Trick or Treat” in the subject line.

Next like the HAB Facebook page and message us “Trick or Treat” on our wall.
My contribution is a 5 x 7 print of this piece:

The bucket of goodies will grow as more items are added, so be sure to keep checking back to see what you might win!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cryptids and Kaiju

I have the pleasure of being surrounded by some very delightful vinyl toys depicting that most compelling of Japanese movie monsters -- Hedorah, or the Smog Monster. Not only is he pretty groovy in "Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster" but these toys take his grooviness and develop it into a psychedelic color palette of infinite possibilities.

Clear, black, white, silver, metallic, glow-in-the-dark, flocked, and multi-colored, you could fill your house just with versions of this drippy fiend and his glowing red eyes.

In fact, some of them look good enough to eat. This guy below sent me looking for a bomb pop, or some kind of lemon-cherry-blue raspberry Italian ice.

Since I don't have an array of paintable figures for my own experimentation, though, I do have the ability to have some two-dimensional representations, so I've been kicking those around lately. This one resembles the tainted rainbow hues of an oil spill.

"Rainbow of Smog" 8 x 10 inch painting on canvas board

And this little guy just tries on some purple for a profile pic. I am quite sure I'll do more of these, as the colors continue to compel me, and it's a lot cheaper to paint my own Hedorahs than it is to buy up some limited run toys!

"Smog Monster in Profile" 5 x 7 inch painting on canvas board
But wait, there's more! Another favorite film is "Attack of the Mushroom People," aka "Matango"...
I had wanted to see this for most of my life, it seems, because nothing sounds more amazing and psychedelic than a Japanese film from the 1960s about people who eat mushrooms, and become mushroom people. What could possibly be better? It's a bit more bleak and psychological than your typical "monsters are coming to kill us" movie, but it nonetheless enjoys considerable cult popularity, decades later. It also lends itself to vinylification (?) quite splendidly. Look how psychedelic...

 I find this a pretty compelling subject as well, so I hope to do some more two-dimensional Matango paintings as I have is the first.

"Beware of the Matango" 5 x 7 inch painting on canvas board

Being caught up in weird monsters and science fiction also means that I have cryptozoology on the brain. The popular image of the Mothman is particularly arresting, to me. You know the story, perhaps. Perhaps you don't. But either way, the big red eyes and wings make for a spooky thing. For some reason I thought he should have an ice cream cone, though. Maybe it's just because it's summer. Maybe I still have that Italian ice flavored Hedorah on the brain.

"In Seach Of...Ice Cream" 5 x 7 inch painting on canvas board 

Finally, for this installment, I really like UFOs, and since I've already painted them beaming up a unicorn, I thought I would dig deep for another creature that, who knows, perhaps aliens have some interest in. It would certainly explain a thing or two. Right?

"The Plot to Abduct Nessie" 5 x 7 inch painting on canvas board

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dark Hollow and Dark Holler

As September draws nearer, things are getting pretty serious with the Halloween stuff popping up. Here are a few more entries in the Dark Hollow art theme by Halloween Artist Bazaar members, as well as a couple of new prints that I have up on Etsy -- which are not Dark Hollow prints, but hey, they are still Halloween.

But another item worth mentioning right now is that over on Dark Holler (see how I did that?) record label, there is a new album available from the band I have been involved with for the past 15 years, Stone Breath. This time around the album is all Timothy and Prydwyn, the pairing that initially drew me to the band when their "A Silver Thread to Weave the Seasons" album was released in the late 1990s. I'm on a bonus track here, but by all means please check out the full album for the most heartfelt, perfect acoustic music you can expect to hear this year. You can also investigate the entire catalog at Bandcamp if digital versions are your thing.

Over in the art once again are my new Halloween works but this time I am talking about the prints that I now have available. You can choose the in 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 inch sizes, and all are in stock as of this writing.

 "Lost in the Dark Hollow" print in 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 by Art by Sarada

 "Cauldron in the Dark Hollow" print in 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 by Art by Sarada

As a side note, I have a few other prints now available of older Halloween art and I will be adding more as the weeks move along their merry way.

"Witch Twins" print by Art by Sarada

"Twilight Tree" print by Art by Sarada

And as promised, here are three more items from other Halloween Artist Bazaar artists. That link right there is to the full HAB shop, but you can also find our stuff on Etsy and other locations...check for the tag HAB, to find a nice assortment!

"Tiny Witch Shrine Box" by Wicked Alterations

"Spooky Tree with Headstone Coffin Box" by Odd Origins
"Will of the Wisp" by Twilight Faerie